The key to Bonobos’ email marketing strategy

March 19, 2015 12:44 PM

Bonobos collects a lot of data—both about its products and its customers.

But for years it didn’t have a good system to use that data. In fact, until a couple years ago, it organized its product data in Excel spreadsheets. The process wasn’t pretty but, for the most part, it seemed “good enough,” says David Glueck, the retailer’s senior director of data science and engineering.

But shortly after Bonobos hired Glueck a little more than two years ago, the data science executive became convinced the retailer’s approach to data was stunting its growth. “We couldn’t fit our whole business in a spreadsheet,” he says. “It was limiting the questions we could ask.”

In other words, Bonobos didn’t know what it didn’t know because it lacked the power to leverage the data it housed. The retailer’s buyers could not figure out, for example, the number of pants sold in each color and size to determine how many to order the following year. Nor could the retailer piece together the information it knew about its customers, which meant, for example, that its customer service agents couldn’t connect a shopper tweeting about the brand with his past purchases.

“On a small scale those types of limitations may not have been a big deal,” Glueck says. “But as we got bigger there were real opportunities that we were missing out on.”

The retailer needed a way to ensure that it maintained consistent, easily shareable data across its various systems that relate to products, such as sales, vendor tracking and logistics. At the same time, it wanted a way to develop a more complete, uniform picture of its customers that would include the various ways it interacts with its customers, such as via marketing emails, catalogs, and calls with customer service agents and social media posts.

Bonobos, No. 282 in the Internet Retailer 2014 Top 500 Guide, addressed those problems by putting in place a master data management system from GoodData. The system collects the most important pieces of product and customer data available from Bonobos’ various divisions and cleanses those data points to ensure that all the information it collects is in the same order and format. The system took six months to put in place and maintaining the data contained in it is a constant project that Glueck oversees. Despite the large expense—Glueck declined to say the exact amount the GoodData system cost—and time investment, the system has paid for itself, he says. For example, by examining demographic data on consumer spending Bonobos has been able to determine where and when to open new stores.

The system also includes modeling tools that help the retailer make sense of the data. For example, Bonobos uses its MDM system to create an algorithm that examines the products a customer has bought, which it links to products customers similar to them have bought, as well as the customer’s lifetime value to ensure that its marketing emails are sent to consumers most likely to click and buy. Tests have shown those targeted messages have a return roughly four times greater than those sent to random groups of customers, Glueck says.

Read more about how retailers are using master data management systems in the upcoming April issue of Internet Retailer magazine.




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